|HOW DID YOU GET STARTED?|
Contrary to popular opinion, I did not lose a bet. It began as a promotion for KGB Radio in San Diego. They were looking to suit somebody up for $2 an hour and give away candy Easter eggs at the zoo for a week. The premise was to compliment their advertising campaign at the time which featured a cartoon chicken overseeing a nest of two eggs in symbolizing KGB's AM and FM stations. One egg was painted a primary color for the AM side while the other one was designed psychedelic-style for the FM twin.
I was hired on the spur of the moment off the campus at San Diego State University when no one else really wanted the job.
When the original assignment at the zoo was done, I asked station heads if I could stay on to attend Padre baseball games in character. They would benefit with impromptu advertising and I would get to see some free baseball. (Albeit, I had to watch through a bothersome beak, but hey, it was better than a knothole).
For the promise of a simple plug on the air for their home games, they said yes, provided KGB would be responsible for my $2 pay. A World Trade pact, this was not.
As I started having some fun with the ridiculousness of it all, the days became weeks, the weeks turned into months and the rest was Chicken history. And to this day, I still don't have a real job. This really is a great country, you know.
|HOW MANY SAN DIEGO CHICKENS ARE THERE?|
I'm only one Chicken. I like to think I do the work of more than one guy, sometimes. It'll never be franchised like so many Elvis' because it would lose its unique appeal. Just as there's only one Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky or Babe Ruth, no one else will carry on in this uniform when I'm done one day.
|DOES IT GET HOT IN THAT SUIT?|
Yes! It's so hot, my eggs come out hard boiled. It's so hot, the extra-crispy recipe was made in my honor. It's so hot, my act isn't even called half-baked anymore!
Inside the suit, I am my own rainforest. I swear I must hold the world's record for most sweating by one person in a lifetime. It's probably 125 degrees on an average work night, but it's become second nature.
But still, truth be known, I won't complain because there's no frying in baseball.
As Harry Truman used to say, "If you can't stand the heat, stay out of The Chicken."
|YOU'VE ALSO BEEN KNOWN AS "THE FAMOUS CHICKEN". DIDN'T YOU LOSE A LAWSUIT TO PREVENT USING THE NAME SAN DIEGO CHICKEN?|
No, in fact, I won it! KGB Radio sued in 1979 to bar me from ever working again in any chicken suit, but instead, the courts ruled in my favor. To this day and forever, I'll be known as The San Diego Chicken. Yet at times, for marketing purposes, in other major league towns where San Diego may be a rival, I'm referred to as The Famous Chicken. The thinking is fans' rooting interests in Oakland, San Francisco, Kansas City, Seattle and such won't be conflicted by a guest from a competing league town.
The way I look at it, I'm a Chicken for all people, kind of like the new National Bird (ok, so what's the bald eagle done lately?) Think of my dual names in the same way as Chevrolet and Chevy, Coca Cola and Coke or New York City and Gotham.
|HOW MANY DATES DO YOU BOOK EACH YEAR?|
I'm one Chicken who crosses a lot of roads. In my salad days, I would easily do 250-275 appearances a year. Now, I keep it around 75. Events are mostly baseball, plus hockey, basketball, TV appearances, trade shows, conventions, parades and banquets. But I'm wary of roasts.
|HAVE YOU EVER MISSED A GAME YOU WERE SCHEDULED FOR?|
Would you believe I've missed fewer games than Cal Ripken? The total is exactly one. It happened for the Wichita Thunder Hockey Club in March, 1998. On that evening, I flew in (on an airplane) but the bags didn't make it.
There was a sellout crowd at the coliseum and all I had was my head and tail, which I always carry onboard. To salvage the night, I decided I had to at least do something and make a token appearance. It wasn't pretty.
During the 1st period intermission, I took to the ice almost as naked as a jaybird. Donning only my Chicken head, tail and loincloth, I presented myself as the public address announcer explained the situation. The fans screamed and howled and the scene actually made the Today Show, ESPN's SportsCenter and CNN's Play Of The Day!
But my streak of more than 5,200 games in a row was broken. Yet all went well when I had the chance to return the next week and make up the date. And this time, I used a different airline.
|WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE CITIES TO VISIT?|
I 've been to 50 states, 7 Canadian provinces and 8 countries. All the stops have been enjoyable or I wouldn't keep going back to all the towns, large or small.
The only city I have yet to visit in the entire continent is Boston. I might be banned there and not even know it. But then again, other fans tell me Boston is always the last to know about anything.
Below in the boxes are the top 5 towns I've most enjoyed:
| 1) INDIANAPOLIS|
Easily the most underrated sports town in America, these people love to laugh and are the best balanced for real life. They support their clubs deeply but winning and losing never gets in their way of a good time.
Should they win a Super Bowl or NBA title, I guarantee they will not riot in the streets. You'll find them whooping it up at every pizza joint across town.
What won me over to the fans though, was seeing street corner scalpers at the Indians' baseball games calling out that they had the best seats for Chicken Night!
| 2) KANSAS CITY|
The fans have a reputation for being laid back but I've found them to be pleasingly nuts. Of all the big league cities, this town brings out the most families in attendance. They are a very loyal following who love a laugh fest when I visit for the Royals or the hockey Blades.
These fans just bust a gut and cut loose Texas-style every time. Whenever I perform for their minor league team, the Dillas, it's the closest thing to an Animal House party in the stands. They're noisy fans in an old ballpark with a great sound system ~ an atmosphere that's hard to beat.
||4) EL PASO
Yes, El Paso! These are the happiest fans on earth. They have only minor league teams and college sports, but show them a good time and they will be back again and again.
I have performed for the Diablos baseball team, in the Texas League, more times than any other, for a total of 70 nights. Yet the huge crowds still laugh loudly at every joke (and at the right times, God bless them).
With my colors and antics, I think this border town sees me as a walking piñata.
| 5) JACKSONVILLE|
This is one happening city for good times. It can almost be considered San Diego east (except for the summer humidity). It's a big navy town with plenty of beach, whose first major league franchise also came in football.
I've visited with fans there for baseball, college basketball and hockey over 25 years and there's always been one constant--they come to laugh big time. Just like San Diego of the 70s, its growing fan base has a spirit to party at sports events, combined with a breezy, Florida charm that makes J'Ville a fun spot.
|DO YOU EAT CHICKEN?|
Sure I do. I just love those critters: lemon style, barbequed, fried and especially chicken wings. It used to bother me, but not anymore. The way I see it, cooking them helps eliminate my competition.
If you can't beat 'em, eat 'em!
|WHERE DO YOU GET ALL THE IDEAS FOR YOUR FUNNY BITS?|
I'm proof you can make chicken salad out of chicken schtick. Most ideas are my own bird brain thoughts. When I first began, I asked myself what would make me laugh if I was sitting in the stands?
I took my fascination of comedy and merged it with my love of sports to produce a one of a kind comedy act. Inspiration comes from anywhere: a TV sketch, a song, news item, movie, cartoon or even what a child may say. I've never hired professional writers.
Still, ideas have been offered by players, coaches, front office executives, fans, and even the umpires and referees! It's gratifying to know that so many people enjoy the show enough to engage their own humor for it.
IS THERE ONE HIGHLIGHT THAT STANDS OUT?
Without a doubt, The Grand Hatching was a genuine thrill, everything it was cracked up to be.
Very few people on this planet have ever experienced such joy, warmth and affection from 47,000 people as I was lucky to have on one summer night. I vividly recall bursting out in cold sweats.
This ceremony was to debut my new Chicken feathers to San Diego fans after being fired from mascot work at KGB Radio. Our divorce was actually front page news but no one thought it would seize the town as it did.
Consider, I was to smash out of a hand carved, 10 foot styrofoam egg, brought onto the field by armored truck, escorted by California Highway Patrol motorcade. In front of the biggest crowd of the year, it all played out to the musical backdrop from the movie, 2001: A Space Odyssey.
The national media was on hand en masse. Moreover, local TV stations interrupted programming to cover the event live. (The Merv Griffin Show was in the midst of an interview with Zsa Zsa Gabor when KGTV cut away to reporter Jack White on the field!)
As I huddled inside that hot egg, the roaring din of the audience brought shivers and chills to my spine.
When I broke out of my shell, the fans' 10 minute standing ovation was an avalanche of childlike glee. The adulation carried on throughout the whole evening's performance.
To this day, baseball experts call it one of the greatest promotions of all time.
|WHAT'S THE MOST MONEY YOU'VE EVER MADE FOR A GAME?|
I was the highest paid athlete in America for one night. It was at that very same Grand Hatching game.
Since I had a feeling the event would be special, I negotiated an attendance deal in advance with the Padres' doubting executives. If I was right, I would hit the lottery. If I wasn't, I'd get a big, fat goose egg.
Sure enough, my pre-game event sold out the stadium that night. It brought 33,000 fans more than the Padres' average crowd. I was paid $40,000. Not a poultry sum.
But do you think I bought a new house, car or even a bag of feed with it? Nope. Try lawyers' time. Because I was in court defending my right to work in feathers against my ex-radio station sponsor, every nickel went to my Chicken defense fund. But the proceeds of that single night literally kept me alive to win the flap. Otherwise, I would have had to forfeit a defense and there wouldn't be a Famous Chicken today.
Now you know why I always say the San Diego fans literally put me on the map.